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« What do they know anyway? | Main | Consumerism »

Apr 22, 2011


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david boyd

tru dat


Talented young people often ask me if they should get EMBAs to further their careers. Out of the dozen or so who have asked in the past year, it seemed to make sense for only one of them. The rest seemed to me to be better off expanding their work experiences.

It's interesting to me that MBA is such a valued credential among major consulting firms. I've never really understood that except in the area of analytics, which is admittedly a growing part of the profession.


My manager is currently working towards his MBA. He hardly ever addresses us plebes; he leaves that for other senior staff.

My daddy wanted me to be a business major and I was for a couple semesters, but the utter banality of it all plus business calculus conspired to make me consider other studies. So I became an English major and afterward endured years of customer service jobs before I was able to cross over into IT. I wouldn't want to be a manager at my company -- I much prefer the role of worker bee. This article reinforced that feeling, and I think I reap the benefits of studying/reading English pretty often.

David Wharton

There are also problems with the undergraduate business degree as currently offered:

Business majors spend less time preparing for class than do students in any other broad field, according to the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement: Nearly half of seniors majoring in business say they spend fewer than 11 hours a week studying outside class. In their new book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, the sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report that on a national test of writing and reasoning skills, business majors had the weakest gains during the first two years of college. And when business students take the GMAT, the entry examination for M.B.A. programs, they score lower than do students in every other major. --Chronicle of Higher Education
I'll resist the urge to plug the liberal arts (but thank you, thank you Dan for your comment), but I can offer this anecdote: my twentysomething nephew has only a high school degree but makes 100k+ at Google based on his work experience.

Ed Cone

To be fair -- and the linked article points this out -- business programs do teach specific skills useful in business, but those skills don't necessarily translate to managing people and situations:

....management education does involve the transfer of weighty bodies of technical knowledge that have accumulated since Taylor first put the management-industrial complex in motion—accounting, statistical analysis, decision modeling, and so forth—and these can prove quite useful to students, depending on their career trajectories. But the “value-add” here is far more limited than Mom or Dad tend to think. In most managerial jobs, almost everything you need to know to succeed must be learned on the job; for the rest, you should consider whether it might have been acquired with less time and at less expense.

I've encouraged our son to mix in some economics courses as he pursues a liberal arts/fine arts education. Seems to me a grounding in the fundamentals is more useful at this point than the specifics.


I have an MBA and I would agree with JP's assessment. For most people the investment of time and money doesn't make sense. Fortunately, my employer covered nearly all my costs, as was the case for most of my classmates. I did not go into the program with the intention of getting on the corporate treadmill and working my way up the ladder (succeeded there!). I did it because I enjoyed going to school and liked the subject matter. I'd have gone on to a terminal degree just for the fun of it if I could have done it without taking on a huge debt.

Ed, good idea to encourage some study of economics. I felt like I understood a lot more about how the world works after a few economics courses.

Andrew Brod

Thomas, smart people always do.

Thomas, smart people always do.


But I found the nexus between Economics, Political Science, Geography, Geology, and Philosophy far more interesting than any one of these disciplines on their own.


I studied all those too, Polifrog. Ain't liberal arts great?


Not liberal arts.

Andrew Brod

Yes, liberal arts. Political science, geography, geology, and philosophy are all part of the liberal arts, which is generally understood to include sciences. For example, UNCG's College of Arts and Sciences includes all of these except geology, for which there is no department at UNCG.

I consider economics to be part of the liberal arts as well, but many universities (such as UNCG) locate that discipline in the business school.

Don't worry: appreciating the liberal arts doesn't make one a liberal.


Here's a pretty good rant about unprofessional education.


I kept a business minor (marketing) as a fig leaf to Dad, but I'm glad I did that as well. I think I got the best of both worlds, walking back and forth between Zen Buddhism, Econ II, film and weather/climate classes. I'd like to say I absorbed it all at the time but a lifelong aspiring neophyte was the apparent result.

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